Part 13 out of 17
dream!' he muttered; and then he closed his eyes to
'Good Uncle Reuben,' I said to him, 'you have been a
long way to-day, sir. Let me go and get you a glass
of good wine. Cousin Ruth knows where to find it.'
'How do you know how far I have been?' he asked, with a
vicious look at me. 'And Cousin Ruth! You are very pat
with my granddaughter's name, young man!'
'It would be hard upon me, sir, not to know my own
'Very well. Let that go by. You have behaved very
badly to Ruth. She loves you; and you love her not.'
At this I was so wholly amazed--not at the thing
itself, I mean, but at his knowledge of it--that I
could not say a single word; but looked, no doubt, very
'You may well be ashamed, young man,' he cried, with
some triumph over me, 'you are the biggest of all
fools, as well as a conceited coxcomb. What can you
want more than Ruth? She is a little damsel, truly;
but finer men than you, John Ridd, with all your
boasted strength and wrestling, have wedded smaller
maidens. And as for quality, and value--bots! one inch
of Ruth is worth all your seven feet put together.'
Now I am not seven feet high; nor ever was six feet
eight inches, in my very prime of life; and nothing
vexes me so much as to make me out a giant, and above
human sympathy, and human scale of weakness. It cost
me hard to hold my tongue; which luckily is not in
proportion to my stature. And only for Ruth's sake I
held it. But Uncle Ben (being old and worn) was vexed
by not having any answer, almost as much as a woman is.
'You want me to go on,' he continued, with a look of
spite at me, 'about my poor Ruth's love for you, to
feed your cursed vanity. Because a set of asses call
you the finest man in England; there is no maid (I
suppose) who is not in love with you. I believe you
are as deep as you are long, John Ridd. Shall I ever
get to the bottom of your character?'
This was a little too much for me. Any insult I could
take (with goodwill) from a white-haired man, and one
who was my relative; unless it touched my love for
Lorna, or my conscious modesty. Now both of these were
touched to the quick by the sentences of the old
gentleman. Therefore, without a word, I went; only
making a bow to him.
But women who are (beyond all doubt) the mothers of all
mischief, also nurse that babe to sleep, when he is too
noisy. And there was Ruth, as I took my horse (with a
trunk of frippery on him), poor little Ruth was at the
bridle, and rusting all the knops of our town-going
harness with tears.
'Good-bye dear,' I said, as she bent her head away from
me; 'shall I put you up on the saddle, dear?'
'Cousin Ridd, you may take it lightly,' said Ruth,
turning full upon me, 'and very likely you are right,
according to your nature'--this was the only cutting
thing the little soul ever said to me--'but oh, Cousin
Ridd, you have no idea of the pain you will leave
'How can that be so, Ruth, when I am as good as ordered
to be off the premises?'
'In the first place, Cousin Ridd, grandfather will be
angry with himself, for having so ill-used you. And
now he is so weak and poorly, that he is always
repenting. In the next place I shall scold him first,
until he admits his sorrow; and when he has admitted
it, I shall scold myself for scolding him. And then he
will come round again, and think that I was hard on
him; and end perhaps by hating you--for he is like a
woman now, John.'
That last little touch of self-knowledge in Ruth, which
she delivered with a gleam of some secret pleasantry,
made me stop and look closely at her: but she pretended
not to know it. 'There is something in this child,' I
thought, 'very different from other girls. What it is
I cannot tell; for one very seldom gets at it.'
At any rate the upshot was that the good horse went
back to stable, and had another feed of corn, while my
wrath sank within me. There are two things, according
to my experience (which may not hold with another man)
fitted beyond any others to take hot tempers out of us.
The first is to see our favourite creatures feeding,
and licking up their food, and happily snuffling over
it, yet sparing time to be grateful, and showing taste
and perception; the other is to go gardening boldly, in
the spring of the year, without any misgiving about it,
and hoping the utmost of everything. If there be a
third anodyne, approaching these two in power, it is to
smoke good tobacco well, and watch the setting of the
moon; and if this should only be over the sea, the
result is irresistible.
Master Huckaback showed no especial signs of joy at my
return; but received me with a little grunt, which
appeared to me to mean, 'Ah, I thought he would hardly
be fool enough to go.' I told him how sorry I was for
having in some way offended him; and he answered that I
did well to grieve for one at least of my offences. To
this I made no reply, as behoves a man dealing with
cross and fractious people; and presently he became
better-tempered, and sent little Ruth for a bottle of
wine. She gave me a beautiful smile of thanks for my
forbearance as she passed; and I knew by her manner
that she would bring the best bottle in all the cellar.
As I had but little time to spare (although the days
were long and light) we were forced to take our wine
with promptitude and rapidity; and whether this
loosened my uncle's tongue, or whether he meant
beforehand to speak, is now almost uncertain. But true
it is that he brought his chair very near to mine,
after three or four glasses, and sent Ruth away upon
some errand which seemed of small importance. At this
I was vexed, for the room always looked so different
'Come, Jack,' he said, 'here's your health, young
fellow, and a good and obedient wife to you. Not that
your wife will ever obey you though; you are much too
easy-tempered. Even a bitter and stormy woman might
live in peace with you, Jack. But never you give her
the chance to try. Marry some sweet little thing, if
you can. If not, don't marry any. Ah, we have the
maid to suit you, my lad, in this old town of
'Have you so, sir? But perhaps the maid might have no
desire to suit me.'
'That you may take my word she has. The colour of this
wine will prove it. The little sly hussy has been to
the cobwebbed arch of the cellar, where she has no
right to go, for any one under a magistrate. However,
I am glad to see it, and we will not spare it, John.
After my time, somebody, whoever marries little Ruth,
will find some rare wines there, I trow, and perhaps
not know the difference.'
Thinking of this the old man sighed, and expected me to
sigh after him. But a sigh is not (like a yawn)
infectious; and we are all more prone to be sent to
sleep than to sorrow by one another. Not but what a
sigh sometimes may make us think of sighing.
'Well, sir,' cried I, in my sprightliest manner, which
rouses up most people, 'here's to your health and dear
little Ruth's: and may you live to knock off the
cobwebs from every bottle in under the arch. Uncle
Reuben, your life and health, sir?'
With that I took my glass thoughtfully, for it was
wondrous good; and Uncle Ben was pleased to see me
dwelling pleasantly on the subject with parenthesis,
and self-commune, and oral judgment unpronounced,
though smacking of fine decision. 'Curia vult
advisari,' as the lawyers say; which means, 'Let us
have another glass, and then we can think about it.'
'Come now, John,' said Uncle Ben, laying his wrinkled
hand on my knee, when he saw that none could heed us,
'I know that you have a sneaking fondness for my
grandchild Ruth. Don't interrupt me now; you have; and
to deny it will only provoke me.'
'I do like Ruth, sir,' I said boldly, for fear of
misunderstanding; 'but I do not love her.'
'Very well; that makes no difference. Liking may very
soon be loving (as some people call it) when the maid
has money to help her.'
'But if there be, as there is in my case--'
'Once for all, John, not a word. I do not attempt to
lead you into any engagement with little Ruth; neither
will I blame you (though I may be disappointed) if no
such engagement should ever be. But whether you will
have my grandchild, or whether you will not--and such a
chance is rarely offered to a fellow of your
standing'--Uncle Ben despised all farmers--'in any case
I have at least resolved to let you know my secret; and
for two good reasons. The first is that it wears me
out to dwell upon it, all alone, and the second is that
I can trust you to fulfil a promise. Moreover, you
are my next of kin, except among the womankind; and you
are just the man I want, to help me in my enterprise.'
'And I will help you, sir,' I answered, fearing some
conspiracy, 'in anything that is true, and loyal, and
according to the laws of the realm.'
'Ha, ha!' cried the old man, laughing until his eyes
ran over, and spreading out his skinny hands upon his
shining breeches, 'thou hast gone the same fools' track
as the rest; even as spy Stickles went, and all his
precious troopers. Landing of arms at Glenthorne, and
Lynmouth, wagons escorted across the moor, sounds of
metal and booming noises! Ah, but we managed it
cleverly, to cheat even those so near to us.
Disaffection at Taunton, signs of insurrection at
Dulverton, revolutionary tanner at Dunster! We set it
all abroad, right well. And not even you to suspect
our work; though we thought at one time that you
watched us. Now who, do you suppose, is at the bottom
of all this Exmoor insurgency, all this western
rebellion--not that I say there is none, mind--but who
is at the bottom of it?'
'Either Mother Melldrum,' said I, being now a little
angry, 'or else old Nick himself.'
'Nay, old Uncle Reuben!' Saying this, Master Huckaback
cast back his coat, and stood up, and made the most of
'Well!' cried I, being now quite come to the limits of
my intellect, 'then, after all, Captain Stickles was
right in calling you a rebel, sir!'
'Of course he was; could so keen a man be wrong about
an old fool like me? But come, and see our rebellion,
John. I will trust you now with everything. I will
take no oath from you; only your word to keep silence;
and most of all from your mother.'
'I will give you my word,' I said, although liking not
such pledges; which make a man think before he speaks
in ordinary company, against his usual practices.
However, I was now so curious, that I thought of
nothing else; and scarcely could believe at all that
Uncle Ben was quite right in his head.
'Take another glass of wine, my son,' he cried with a
cheerful countenance, which made him look more than ten
years younger; 'you shall come into partnership with
me: your strength will save us two horses, and we
always fear the horse work. Come and see our
rebellion, my boy; you are a made man from to-night.'
'But where am I to come and see it? Where am I to find
'Meet me,' he answered, yet closing his hands, and
wrinkling with doubt his forehead, 'come alone, of
course; and meet me at the Wizard's Slough, at ten
MASTER HUCKABACK'S SECRET
Knowing Master Huckaback to be a man of his word, as
well as one who would have others so, I was careful to
be in good time the next morning, by the side of the
Wizard's Slough. I am free to admit that the name of
the place bore a feeling of uneasiness, and a love of
distance, in some measure to my heart. But I did my
best not to think of this; only I thought it a wise
precaution, and due for the sake of my mother and
Lorna, to load my gun with a dozen slugs made from the
lead of the old church-porch, laid by, long since,
I am well aware that some people now begin to doubt
about witchcraft; or at any rate feign to do so; being
desirous to disbelieve whatever they are afraid of.
This spirit is growing too common among us, and will
end (unless we put a stop to it!) in the destruction of
all religion. And as regards witchcraft, a man is
bound either to believe in it, or to disbelieve the
Bible. For even in the New Testament, discarding many
things of the Old, such as sacrifices, and Sabbath, and
fasting, and other miseries, witchcraft is clearly
spoken of as a thing that must continue; that the Evil
One be not utterly robbed of his vested interests.
Hence let no one tell me that witchcraft is done away
with; for I will meet him with St. Paul, than whom no
better man, and few less superstitious, can be found in
all the Bible.
Feeling these things more in those days than I feel
them now, I fetched a goodish compass round, by the way
of the cloven rocks, rather than cross Black Barrow
Down, in a reckless and unholy manner. There were
several spots, upon that Down, cursed and smitten, and
blasted, as if thunderbolts had fallen there, and Satan
sat to keep them warm. At any rate it was good (as
every one acknowledged) not to wander there too much;
even with a doctor of divinity on one arm and of
medicine upon the other.
Therefore, I, being all alone, and on foot (as seemed
the wisest), preferred a course of roundabout; and
starting about eight o'clock, without mentioning my
business, arrived at the mouth of the deep descent,
such as John Fry described it. Now this (though I have
not spoken of it) was not my first time of being there.
For, although I could not bring myself to spy upon
Uncle Reuben, as John Fry had done, yet I thought it no
ill manners, after he had left our house, to have a
look at the famous place, where the malefactor came to
life, at least in John's opinion. At that time,
however, I saw nothing except the great ugly black
morass, with the grisly reeds around it; and I did not
care to go very near it, much less to pry on the
Now, on the other hand, I was bent to get at the very
bottom of this mystery (if there were any), having less
fear of witch or wizard, with a man of Uncle Reuben's
wealth to take my part, and see me through. So I
rattled the ramrod down my gun, just to know if the
charge were right, after so much walking; and finding
it full six inches deep, as I like to have it, went
boldly down the steep gorge of rock, with a firm
resolve to shoot any witch unless it were good Mother
Melldrum. Nevertheless to my surprise, all was quiet,
and fair to look at, in the decline of the narrow way,
with great stalked ferns coming forth like trees, yet
hanging like cobwebs over one. And along one side, a
little spring was getting rid of its waters. Any man
might stop and think; or he might go on and think; and
in either case, there was none to say that he was
making a fool of himself.
When I came to the foot of this ravine, and over
against the great black slough, there was no sign of
Master Huckaback, nor of any other living man, except
myself, in the silence. Therefore, I sat in a niche of
rock, gazing at the slough, and pondering the old
tradition about it.
They say that, in the ancient times, a mighty
necromancer lived in the wilderness of Exmoor. Here,
by spell and incantation, he built himself a strong
high palace, eight-sided like a spider's web, and
standing on a central steep; so that neither man nor
beast could cross the moors without his knowledge. If
he wished to rob and slay a traveller, or to have wild
ox, or stag for food, he had nothing more to do than
sit at one of his eight windows, and point his unholy
book at him. Any moving creature, at which that book
was pointed, must obey the call, and come from whatever
distance, if sighted once by the wizard.
This was a bad condition of things, and all the country
groaned under it; and Exmoor (although the most honest
place that a man could wish to live in) was beginning
to get a bad reputation, and all through that vile
wizard. No man durst even go to steal a sheep, or a
pony, or so much as a deer for dinner, lest he should
be brought to book by a far bigger rogue than he was.
And this went on for many years; though they prayed to
God to abate it. But at last, when the wizard was
getting fat and haughty upon his high stomach, a mighty
deliverance came to Exmoor, and a warning, and a
memory. For one day the sorcerer gazed from his window
facing the southeast of the compass, and he yawned,
having killed so many men that now he was weary of it.
"Ifackins,' he cried, or some such oath, both profane
and uncomely, 'I see a man on the verge of the
sky-line, going along laboriously. A pilgrim, I trow,
or some such fool, with the nails of his boots inside
them. Too thin to be worth eating; but I will have him
for the fun of the thing; and most of those saints have
With these words he stretched forth his legs on a
stool, and pointed the book of heathenish spells back
upwards at the pilgrim. Now this good pilgrim was
plodding along, soberly and religiously, with a pound
of flints in either boot, and not an ounce of meat
inside him. He felt the spell of the wicked book, but
only as a horse might feel a 'gee-wug!' addressed to
him. It was in the power of this good man, either to
go on, or turn aside, and see out the wizard's meaning.
And for a moment he halted and stood, like one in two
minds about a thing. Then the wizard clapped one cover
to, in a jocular and insulting manner; and the sound of
it came to the pilgrim's ear, about five miles in the
distance, like a great gun fired at him.
'By our Lady,' he cried, 'I must see to this; although
my poor feet have no skin below them. I will teach
this heathen miscreant how to scoff at Glastonbury.'
Thereupon he turned his course, and ploughed along
through the moors and bogs, towards the eight-sided
palace. The wizard sat on his chair of comfort, and
with the rankest contempt observed the holy man
ploughing towards him. 'He has something good in his
wallet, I trow,' said the black thief to himself;
'these fellows get always the pick of the wine, and the
best of a woman's money.' Then he cried, 'Come in,
come in, good sir,' as he always did to every one.
'Bad sir, I will not come in,' said the pilgrim;
'neither shall you come out again. Here are the bones
of all you have slain; and here shall your own bones
'Hurry me not,' cried the sorcerer; 'that is a thing to
think about. How many miles hast thou travelled this
But the pilgrim was too wide awake, for if he had
spoken of any number, bearing no cross upon it, the
necromancer would have had him, like a ball at
bando-play. Therefore he answered, as truly as need
be, 'By the grace of our Lady, nine.'
Now nine is the crossest of all cross numbers, and full
to the lip of all crochets. So the wizard staggered
back, and thought, and inquired again with bravery,
'Where can you find a man and wife, one going up-hill
and one going down, and not a word spoken between
'In a cucumber plant,' said the modest saint; blushing
even to think of it; and the wizard knew he was done
'You have tried me with ungodly questions,' continued
the honest pilgrim, with one hand still over his eyes,
as he thought of the feminine cucumber; 'and now I will
ask you a pure one. To whom of mankind have you ever
done good, since God saw fit to make you?'
The wizard thought, but could quote no one; and he
looked at the saint, and the saint at him, and both
their hearts were trembling. 'Can you mention only
one?' asked the saint, pointing a piece of the true
cross at him, hoping he might cling to it; 'even a
little child will do; try to think of some one.'
The earth was rocking beneath their feet, and the
palace windows darkened on them, with a tint of blood,
for now the saint was come inside, hoping to save the
'If I must tell the pure truth,' said the wizard,
looking up at the arches of his windows, 'I can tell of
only one to whom I ever have done good.'
'One will do; one is quite enough; be quick before the
ground opens. The name of one--and this cross will
save you. Lay your thumb on the end of it.'
'Nay, that I cannot do, great saint. The devil have
mercy upon me.'
All this while the palace was sinking, and blackness
coming over them.
'Thou hast all but done for thyself,' said the saint,
with a glory burning round his head; 'by that last
invocation. Yet give us the name of the one, my
friend, if one there be; it will save thee, with the
cross upon thy breast. All is crashing round us; dear
brother, who is that one?'
'My own self,' cried the wretched wizard.
'Then there is no help for thee.' And with that the
honest saint went upward, and the wizard, and all his
palace, and even the crag that bore it, sank to the
bowels of the earth; and over them was nothing left
except a black bog fringed with reed, of the tint of
the wizard's whiskers. The saint, however, was all
right, after sleeping off the excitement; and he
founded a chapel, some three miles westward; and there
he lies with his holy relic and thither in after ages
came (as we all come home at last) both my Lorna's Aunt
Sabina, and her guardian Ensor Doone.
While yet I dwelled upon this strange story, wondering
if it all were true, and why such things do not happen
now, a man on horseback appeared as suddenly as if he
had risen out of the earth, on the other side of the
great black slough. At first I was a little scared, my
mind being in the tune for wonders; but presently the
white hair, whiter from the blackness of the bog
between us, showed me that it was Uncle Reuben come to
look for me, that way. Then I left my chair of rock,
and waved my hat and shouted to him, and the sound of
my voice among the crags and lonely corners frightened
Old Master Huckaback made no answer, but (so far as I
could guess) beckoned me to come to him. There was
just room between the fringe of reed and the belt of
rock around it, for a man going very carefully to
escape that horrible pit-hole. And so I went round to
the other side, and there found open space enough, with
stunted bushes, and starveling trees, and straggling
tufts of rushes.
'You fool, you are frightened,' said Uncle Ben, as he
looked at my face after shaking hands: 'I want a young
man of steadfast courage, as well as of strength and
silence. And after what I heard of the battle at Glen
Doone, I thought I might trust you for courage.'
'So you may,' said I, 'wherever I see mine enemy; but
not where witch and wizard be.'
'Tush, great fool!' cried Master Huckaback; 'the only
witch or wizard here is the one that bewitcheth all
men. Now fasten up my horse, John Ridd, and not too
near the slough, lad. Ah, we have chosen our entrance
wisely. Two good horsemen, and their horses, coming
hither to spy us out, are gone mining on their own
account (and their last account it is) down this good
With these words, Uncle Reuben clutched the mane of his
horse and came down, as a man does when his legs are
old; and as I myself begin to do, at this time of
writing. I offered a hand, but he was vexed, and would
have nought to do with it.
'Now follow me, step for step,' he said, when I had
tethered his horse to a tree; 'the ground is not death
(like the wizard's hole), but many parts are
treacherous, I know it well by this time.'
Without any more ado, he led me in and out the marshy
places, to a great round hole or shaft, bratticed up
with timber. I never had seen the like before, and
wondered how they could want a well, with so much water
on every side. Around the mouth were a few little
heaps of stuff unused to the daylight; and I thought at
once of the tales I had heard concerning mines in
Cornwall, and the silver cup at Combe-Martin, sent to
the Queen Elizabeth.
'We had a tree across it, John,' said Uncle Reuben,
smiling grimly at my sudden shrink from it: 'but some
rogue came spying here, just as one of our men went up.
He was frightened half out of his life, I believe, and
never ventured to come again. But we put the blame of
that upon you. And I see that we were wrong, John.'
Here he looked at me with keen eyes, though weak.
'You were altogether wrong,' I answered. 'Am I mean
enough to spy upon any one dwelling with us? And more
than that, Uncle Reuben, it was mean of you to suppose
'All ideas are different,' replied the old man to my
heat, like a little worn-out rill running down a
smithy; 'you with your strength and youth, and all
that, are inclined to be romantic. I take things as I
have known them, going on for seventy years. Now will
you come and meet the wizard, or does your courage fail
'My courage must be none,' said I, 'if I would not go
where you go, sir.'
He said no more, but signed to me to lift a heavy
wooden corb with an iron loop across it, and sunk in a
little pit of earth, a yard or so from the mouth of the
shaft. I raised it, and by his direction dropped it
into the throat of the shaft, where it hung and shook
from a great cross-beam laid at the level of the earth.
A very stout thick rope was fastened to the handle of
the corb, and ran across a pulley hanging from the
centre of the beam, and thence out of sight in the
'I will first descend,' he said; 'your weight is too
great for safety. When the bucket comes up again,
follow me, if your heart is good.'
Then he whistled down, with a quick sharp noise, and a
whistle from below replied; and he clomb into the
vehicle, and the rope ran through the pulley, and Uncle
Ben went merrily down, and was out of sight, before I
had time to think of him.
Now being left on the bank like that, and in full sight
of the goodly heaven, I wrestled hard with my flesh and
blood, about going down into the pit-hole. And but for
the pale shame of the thing, that a white-headed man
should adventure so, and green youth doubt about it,
never could I have made up my mind; for I do love air
and heaven. However, at last up came the bucket; and
with a short sad prayer I went into whatever might
My teeth would chatter, do all I could; but the
strength of my arms was with me; and by them I held on
the grimy rope, and so eased the foot of the corb,
which threatened to go away fathoms under me. Of
course I should still have been safe enough, being like
an egg in an egg-cup, too big to care for the bottom;
still I wished that all should be done, in good order,
The scoopings of the side grew black, and the patch of
sky above more blue, as with many thoughts of Lorna, a
long way underground I sank. Then I was fetched up at
the bottom with a jerk and rattle; and but for holding
by the rope so, must have tumbled over. Two great
torches of bale-resin showed me all the darkness, one
being held by Uncle Ben and the other by a short square
man with a face which seemed well-known to me.
'Hail to the world of gold, John Ridd,' said Master
Huckaback, smiling in the old dry manner; 'bigger
coward never came down the shaft, now did he, Carfax?'
'They be all alike,' said the short square man, 'fust
time as they doos it.'
'May I go to heaven,' I cried, 'which is a thing quite
out of sight'--for I always have a vein of humour, too
small to be followed by any one--'if ever again of my
own accord I go so far away from it!' Uncle Ben grinned
less at this than at the way I knocked my shin in
getting out of the bucket; and as for Master Carfax, he
would not even deign to smile. And he seemed to look
upon my entrance as an interloping.
For my part, I had nought to do, after rubbing my
bruised leg, except to look about me, so far as the
dullness of light would help. And herein I seemed,
like a mouse in a trap, able no more than to run to and
fro, and knock himself, and stare at things. For here
was a little channel grooved with posts on either side
of it, and ending with a heap of darkness, whence the
sight came back again; and there was a scooped place,
like a funnel, but pouring only to darkness. So I
waited for somebody to speak first, not seeing my way
'You seem to be disappointed, John,' said Uncle Reuben,
looking blue by the light of the flambeaux; 'did you
expect to see the roof of gold, and the sides of gold,
and the floor of gold, John Ridd?'
'Ha, ha!' cried Master Carfax; 'I reckon her did; no
doubt her did.'
'You are wrong,' I replied; 'but I did expect to see
something better than dirt and darkness.'
'Come on then, my lad; and we will show you some-thing
better. We want your great arm on here, for a job that
has beaten the whole of us.'
With these words, Uncle Ben led the way along a narrow
passage, roofed with rock and floored with
slate-coloured shale and shingle, and winding in and
out, until we stopped at a great stone block or
boulder, lying across the floor, and as large as my
mother's best oaken wardrobe. Beside it were several
sledge-hammers, battered, and some with broken helves.
'Thou great villain!' cried Uncle Ben, giving the
boulder a little kick; 'I believe thy time is come at
last. Now, John, give us a sample of the things they
tell of thee. Take the biggest of them sledge-hammers
and crack this rogue in two for us. We have tried at
him for a fortnight, and he is a nut worth cracking.
But we have no man who can swing that hammer, though
all in the mine have handled it.'
'I will do my very best,' said I, pulling off my coat
and waistcoat, as if I were going to wrestle; 'but I
fear he will prove too tough for me.'
'Ay, that her wull,' grunted Master Carfax; 'lack'th a
Carnishman, and a beg one too, not a little charp such
as I be. There be no man outside Carnwall, as can
crack that boolder.'
'Bless my heart,' I answered; 'but I know something of
you, my friend, or at any rate of your family. Well, I
have beaten most of your Cornish men, though not my
place to talk of it. But mind, if I crack this rock
for you, I must have some of the gold inside it.'
'Dost think to see the gold come tumbling out like the
kernel of a nut, thou zany?' asked Uncle Reuben
pettishly; 'now wilt thou crack it or wilt thou not?
For I believe thou canst do it, though only a lad of
Uncle Reuben showed by saying this, and by his glance
at Carfax, that he was proud of his county, and would
be disappointed for it if I failed to crack the
boulder. So I begged him to stoop his torch a little,
that I might examine my subject. To me there appeared
to be nothing at all remarkable about it, except that
it sparkled here and there, when the flash of the flame
fell upon it. A great obstinate, oblong, sullen
stone; how could it be worth the breaking, except for
making roads with?
Nevertheless, I took up the hammer, and swinging it far
behind my head, fetched it down, with all my power,
upon the middle of the rock. The roof above rang
mightily, and the echo went down delven galleries, so
that all the miners flocked to know what might be
doing. But Master Carfax only smiled, although the
blow shook him where he stood, for behold the stone was
still unbroken, and as firm as ever. Then I smote it
again, with no better fortune, and Uncle Ben looked
vexed and angry, but all the miners grinned with
'This little tool is too light,' I cried; 'one of you
give me a piece of strong cord.'
Then I took two more of the weightiest hammers, and
lashed them fast to the back of mine, not so as to
strike, but to burden the fall. Having made this firm,
and with room to grasp the handle of the largest one
only--for the helves of the others were shorter--I
smiled at Uncle Ben, and whirled the mighty implement
round my head, just to try whether I could manage it.
Upon that the miners gave a cheer, being honest men,
and desirous of seeing fair play between this
'shameless stone' (as Dan Homer calls it) and me with
my hammer hammering.
Then I swung me on high to the swing of the sledge, as
a thresher bends back to the rise of his flail, and
with all my power descending delivered the ponderous
onset. Crashing and crushed the great stone fell over,
and threads of sparkling gold appeared in the jagged
sides of the breakage.
'How now, Simon Carfax?' cried Uncle Ben triumphantly;
'wilt thou find a man in Cornwall can do the like of
'Ay, and more,' he answered; 'however, it be pretty
fair for a lad of these outlandish parts. Get your
rollers, my lads, and lead it to the crushing engine.'
I was glad to have been of some service to them; for it
seems that this great boulder had been too large to be
drawn along the gallery and too hard to crack. But now
they moved it very easily, taking piece by piece, and
carefully picking up the fragments.
'Thou hast done us a good turn, my lad,' said Uncle
Reuben, as the others passed out of sight at the
corner; 'and now I will show thee the bottom of a very
wondrous mystery. But we must not do it more than
once, for the time of day is the wrong one.'
The whole affair being a mystery to me, and far beyond
my understanding, I followed him softly, without a
word, yet thinking very heavily, and longing to be
above ground again. He led me through small passages,
to a hollow place near the descending shaft, where I
saw a most extraordinary monster fitted up. In form it
was like a great coffee-mill, such as I had seen in
London, only a thousand times larger, and with heavy
windlass to work it.
'Put in a barrow-load of the smoulder,' said Uncle Ben
to Carfax, 'and let them work the crank, for John to
understand a thing or two.'
'At this time of day!' cried Simon Carfax; 'and the
watching as has been o' late!'
However, he did it without more remonstrance; pouring
into the scuttle at the top of the machine about a
baskeful of broken rock; and then a dozen men went to
the wheel, and forced it round, as sailors do. Upon
that such a hideous noise arose, as I never should have
believed any creature capable of making, and I ran to
the well of the mine for air, and to ease my ears, if
'Enough, enough!' shouted Uncle Ben by the time I was
nearly deafened; 'we will digest our goodly boulder
after the devil is come abroad for his evening work.
Now, John, not a word about what you have learned; but
henceforth you will not be frightened by the noise we
make at dusk.'
I could not deny but what this was very clever
management. If they could not keep the echoes of the
upper air from moving, the wisest plan was to open
their valves during the discouragement of the falling
evening; when folk would rather be driven away, than
drawn into the wilds and quagmires, by a sound so deep
and awful, coming through the darkness.
LORNA GONE AWAY
Although there are very ancient tales of gold being
found upon Exmoor, in lumps and solid hummocks, and of
men who slew one another for it, this deep digging and
great labour seemed to me a dangerous and unholy
enterprise. And Master Huckaback confessed that up to
the present time his two partners and himself (for they
proved to be three adventurers) had put into the earth
more gold than they had taken out of it. Nevertheless
he felt quite sure that it must in a very short time
succeed, and pay them back an hundredfold; and he
pressed me with great earnestness to join them, and
work there as much as I could, without moving my
mother's suspicions. I asked him how they had managed
so long to carry on without discovery; and he said that
this was partly through the wildness of the
neighbourhood, and the legends that frightened people
of a superstitious turn; partly through their own great
caution, and the manner of fetching both supplies and
implements by night; but most of all, they had to thank
the troubles of the period, the suspicions of
rebellion, and the terror of the Doones, which (like
the wizard I was speaking of) kept folk from being too
inquisitive where they had no business. The slough,
moreover, had helped them well, both by making their
access dark, and yet more by swallowing up and
concealing all that was cast from the mouth of the pit.
Once, before the attack on Glen Doone, they had a
narrow escape from the King's Commissioner; for Captain
Stickles having heard no doubt the story of John Fry,
went with half a dozen troopers, on purpose to search
the neighbourhood. Now if he had ridden alone, most
likely he would have discovered everything; but he
feared to venture so, having suspicion of a trap.
Coming as they did in a company, all mounted and
conspicuous, the watchman (who was posted now on the
top of the hill, almost every day since John Fry's
appearance) could not help espying them, miles distant,
over the moorland. He watched them under the shade of
his hand, and presently ran down the hill, and raised a
great commotion. Then Simon Carfax and all his men
came up, and made things natural, removing every sign
of work; and finally, sinking underground, drew across
the mouth of the pit a hurdle thatched with sedge and
heather. Only Simon himself was left behind, ensconced
in a hole of the crags, to observe the doings of the
Captain Stickles rode very bravely, with all his men
clattering after him, down the rocky pass, and even to
the margin of the slough. And there they stopped, and
held council; for it was a perilous thing to risk the
passage upon horseback, between the treacherous brink
and the cliff, unless one knew it thoroughly.
Stickles, however, and one follower, carefully felt the
way along, having their horses well in hand, and
bearing a rope to draw them out, in case of being
foundered. Then they spurred across the rough boggy
land, farther away than the shaft was. Here the ground
lay jagged and shaggy, wrought up with high tufts of
reed, or scragged with stunted brushwood. And between
the ups and downs (which met anybody anyhow)
green-covered places tempted the foot, and black
bog-holes discouraged it. It is not to be marvelled at
that amid such place as this, for the first time
visited, the horses were a little skeary; and their
riders partook of the feeling, as all good riders do.
In and out of the tufts they went, with their eyes
dilating, wishing to be out of harm, if conscience were
but satisfied. And of this tufty flaggy ground, pocked
with bogs and boglets, one especial nature is that it
will not hold impressions.
Seeing thus no track of men, nor anything but
marsh-work, and stormwork, and of the seasons, these
two honest men rode back, and were glad to do so. For
above them hung the mountains, cowled with fog, and
seamed with storm; and around them desolation; and
below their feet the grave. Hence they went, with all
goodwill; and vowed for ever afterwards that fear of a
simple place like that was only too ridiculous. So
they all rode home with mutual praises, and their
courage well-approved; and the only result of the
expedition was to confirm John Fry's repute as a bigger
liar than ever.
Now I had enough of that underground work, as before
related, to last me for a year to come; neither would
I, for sake of gold, have ever stepped into that
bucket, of my own goodwill again. But when I told
Lorna--whom I could trust in any matter of secrecy, as
if she had never been a woman--all about my great
descent, and the honeycombing of the earth, and the
mournful noise at eventide, when the gold was under the
crusher and bewailing the mischief it must do, then
Lorna's chief desire was to know more about Simon
'It must be our Gwenny's father,' she cried; 'the man
who disappeared underground, and whom she has ever been
seeking. How grieved the poor little thing will be, if
it should turn out, after all, that he left his child
on purpose! I can hardly believe it; can you, John?'
'Well,' I replied; 'all men are wicked, more or less,
to some extent; and no man may say otherwise.'
For I did not wish to commit myself to an opinion about
Simon, lest I might be wrong, and Lorna think less of
But being resolved to see this out, and do a good turn,
if I could, to Gwenny, who had done me many a good one,
I begged my Lorna to say not a word of this matter to
the handmaiden, until I had further searched it out.
And to carry out this resolve, I went again to the
place of business where they were grinding gold as
freely as an apothecary at his pills.
Having now true right of entrance, and being known to
the watchman, and regarded (since I cracked the
boulder) as one who could pay his footing, and perhaps
would be the master, when Uncle Ben should he choked
with money, I found the corb sent up for me rather
sooner than I wished it. For the smell of the places
underground, and the way men's eyes came out of them,
with links, and brands, and flambeaux, instead of God's
light to look at, were to me a point of caution, rather
than of pleasure.
No doubt but what some men enjoy it, being born, like
worms, to dig, and to live in their own scoopings. Yet
even the worms come up sometimes, after a good soft
shower of rain, and hold discourse with one another;
whereas these men, and the horses let down, come above
And the changing of the sky is half the change our
nature calls for. Earth we have, and all its produce
(moving from the first appearance, and the hope with
infants' eyes, through the bloom of beauty's promise,
to the rich and ripe fulfilment, and the falling back
to rest); sea we have (with all its wonder shed on
eyes, and ears, and heart; and the thought of something
more)--but without the sky to look at, what would
earth, and sea, and even our own selves, be to us?
Do we look at earth with hope? Yes, for victuals only.
Do we look at sea with hope? Yes, that we may escape
it. At the sky alone (though questioned with the
doubts of sunshine, or scattered with uncertain stars),
at the sky alone we look with pure hope and with
Hence it always hurt my feelings when I got into that
bucket, with my small-clothes turned up over, and a
kerchief round my hat. But knowing that my purpose was
sound, and my motives pure, I let the sky grow to a
little blue hole, and then to nothing over me. At the
bottom Master Carfax met me, being captain of the mine,
and desirous to know my business. He wore a loose sack
round his shoulders, and his beard was two feet long.
'My business is to speak with you,' I answered rather
sternly; for this man, who was nothing more than Uncle
Reuben's servant, had carried things too far with me,
showing no respect whatever; and though I did not care
for much, I liked to receive a little, even in my early
'Coom into the muck-hole, then,' was his gracious
answer; and he led me into a filthy cell, where the
miners changed their jackets.
'Simon Carfax, I began, with a manner to discourage
him; 'I fear you are a shallow fellow, and not worth my
'Then don't take it,' he replied; 'I want no man's
'For your sake I would not,' I answered; 'but for your
daughter's sake I will; the daughter whom you left to
starve so pitifully in the wilderness.'
The man stared at me with his pale gray eyes, whose
colour was lost from candle light; and his voice as
well as his body shook, while he cried,--
'It is a lie, man. No daughter, and no son have I.
Nor was ever child of mine left to starve in the
wilderness. You are too big for me to tackle, and that
makes you a coward for saying it.' His hands were
playing with a pickaxe helve, as if he longed to have
me under it.
'Perhaps I have wronged you, Simon,' I answered very
softly; for the sweat upon his forehead shone in the
smoky torchlight; 'if I have, I crave your pardon. But
did you not bring up from Cornwall a little maid named
"Gwenny," and supposed to be your daughter?'
'Ay, and she was my daughter, my last and only child of
five; and for her I would give this mine, and all the
gold will ever come from it.'
'You shall have her, without either mine or gold; if
you only prove to me that you did not abandon her.'
'Abandon her! I abandon Gwenny!' He cried with such a
rage of scorn, that I at once believed him. 'They told
me she was dead, and crushed, and buried in the drift
here; and half my heart died with her. The Almighty
blast their mining-work, if the scoundrels lied to me!'
'The scoundrels must have lied to you,' I answered,
with a spirit fired by his heat of fury: 'the maid is
living and with us. Come up; and you shall see her.'
'Rig the bucket,' he shouted out along the echoing
gallery; and then he fell against the wall, and through
the grimy sack I saw the heaving of his breast, as I
have seen my opponent's chest, in a long hard bout of
wrestling. For my part, I could do no more than hold
my tongue and look at him.
Without another word we rose to the level of the moors
and mires; neither would Master Carfax speak, as I led
him across the barrows. In this he was welcome to his
own way, for I do love silence; so little harm can come
of it. And though Gwenny was no beauty, her father
might be fond of her.
So I put him in the cow-house (not to frighten the
little maid), and the folding shutters over him, such
as we used at the beestings; and he listened to my
voice outside, and held on, and preserved himself. For
now he would have scooped the earth, as cattle do at
yearning-time, and as meekly and as patiently, to have
his child restored to him. Not to make long tale of
it--for this thing is beyond me, through want of true
experience--I went and fetched his Gwenny forth from
the back kitchen, where she was fighting, as usual,
with our Betty.
'Come along, you little Vick,' I said, for so we called
her; 'I have a message to you, Gwenny, from the Lord in
'Don't 'ee talk about He,' she answered; 'Her have long
'That He has never done, you stupid. Come, and see who
is in the cowhouse.'
Gwenny knew; she knew in a moment. Looking into my
eyes, she knew; and hanging back from me to sigh, she
knew it even better.
She had not much elegance of emotion, being flat and
square all over; but none the less for that her heart
came quick, and her words came slowly.
'Oh, Jan, you are too good to cheat me. Is it joke you
are putting upon me?'
I answered her with a gaze alone; and she tucked up her
clothes and followed me because the road was dirty.
Then I opened the door just wide enough for the child
to to go her father, and left those two to have it out,
as might be most natural. And they took a long time
Meanwhile I needs must go and tell my Lorna all the
matter; and her joy was almost as great as if she
herself had found a father. And the wonder of the
whole was this, that I got all the credit; of which not
a thousandth part belonged by right and reason to me.
Yet so it almost always is. If I work for good desert,
and slave, and lie awake at night, and spend my unborn
life in dreams, not a blink, nor wink, nor inkling of
my labour ever tells. It would have been better to
leave unburned, and to keep undevoured, the fuel and
the food of life. But if I have laboured not, only
acted by some impulse, whim, caprice, or anything; or
even acting not at all, only letting things float by;
piled upon me commendations, bravoes, and applauses,
almost work me up to tempt once again (though sick of
it) the ill luck of deserving.
Without intending any harm, and meaning only good
indeed, I had now done serious wrong to Uncle Reuben's
prospects. For Captain Carfax was full as angry at the
trick played on him as he was happy in discovering the
falsehood and the fraud of it. Nor could I help
agreeing with him, when he told me all of it, as with
tears in his eyes he did, and ready to be my slave
henceforth; I could not forbear from owning that it was
a low and heartless trick, unworthy of men who had
families; and the recoil whereof was well deserved,
whatever it might end in.
For when this poor man left his daughter, asleep as he
supposed, and having his food, and change of clothes,
and Sunday hat to see to, he meant to return in an hour
or so, and settle about her sustenance in some house of
the neighbourhood. But this was the very thing of all
things which the leaders of the enterprise, who had
brought him up from Cornwall, for his noted skill in
metals, were determined, whether by fair means or foul,
to stop at the very outset. Secrecy being their main
object, what chance could there be of it, if the miners
were allowed to keep their children in the
neighbourhood? Hence, on the plea of feasting Simon,
they kept him drunk for three days and three nights,
assuring him (whenever he had gleams enough to ask for
her) that his daughter was as well as could be, and
enjoying herself with the children. Not wishing the
maid to see him tipsy, he pressed the matter no
further; but applied himself to the bottle again, and
drank her health with pleasure.
However, after three days of this, his constitution
rose against it, and he became quite sober; with a
certain lowness of heart moreover, and a sense of
error. And his first desire to right himself, and
easiest way to do it, was by exerting parental
authority upon Gwenny. Possessed with this intention
(for he was not a sweet tempered man, and his head was
aching sadly) he sought for Gwenny high and low; first
with threats, and then with fears, and then with tears
and wailing. And so he became to the other men a
warning and a great annoyance. Therefore they combined
to swear what seemed a very likely thing, and might be
true for all they knew, to wit, that Gwenny had come to
seek for her father down the shaft-hole, and peering
too eagerly into the dark, had toppled forward, and
gone down, and lain at the bottom as dead as a stone.
'And thou being so happy with drink,' the villains
finished up to him, 'and getting drunker every day, we
thought it shame to trouble thee; and we buried the
wench in the lower drift; and no use to think more of
her; but come and have a glass, Sim.'
But Simon Carfax swore that drink had lost him his
wife, and now had lost him the last of his five
children, and would lose him his own soul, if further
he went on with it; and from that day to his death he
never touched strong drink again. Nor only this; but
being soon appointed captain of the mine, he allowed no
man on any pretext to bring cordials thither; and to
this and his stern hard rule and stealthy secret
management (as much as to good luck and place) might it
be attributed that scarcely any but themselves had
dreamed about this Exmoor mine.
As for me, I had no ambition to become a miner; and the
state to which gold-seeking had brought poor Uncle Ben
was not at all encouraging. My business was to till
the ground, and tend the growth that came of it, and
store the fruit in Heaven's good time, rather than to
scoop and burrow like a weasel or a rat for the yellow
root of evil. Moreover, I was led from home, between
the hay and corn harvests (when we often have a week to
spare), by a call there was no resisting; unless I gave
up all regard for wrestling, and for my county.
Now here many persons may take me amiss, and there
always has been some confusion; which people who ought
to have known better have wrought into subject of
quarrelling. By birth it is true, and cannot be
denied, that I am a man of Somerset; nevertheless by
breed I am, as well as by education, a son of Devon
also. And just as both of our two counties vowed that
Glen Doone was none of theirs, but belonged to the
other one; so now, each with hot claim and jangling
(leading even to blows sometimes), asserted and would
swear to it (as I became more famous) that John Ridd
was of its own producing, bred of its own true blood,
and basely stolen by the other.
Now I have not judged it in any way needful or even
becoming and delicate, to enter into my wrestling
adventures, or describe my progress. The whole thing
is so different from Lorna, and her gentle manners, and
her style of walking; moreover I must seem (even to
kind people) to magnify myself so much, or at least
attempt to do it, that I have scratched out written
pages, through my better taste and sense.
Neither will I, upon this head, make any difference
even now; being simply betrayed into mentioning the
matter because bare truth requires it, in the tale of
For a mighty giant had arisen in a part of Cornwall:
and his calf was twenty-five inches round, and the
breadth of his shoulders two feet and a quarter; and
his stature seven feet and three-quarters. Round the
chest he was seventy inches, and his hand a foot
across, and there were no scales strong enough to judge
of his weight in the market-place. Now this man--or I
should say, his backers and his boasters, for the giant
himself was modest--sent me a brave and haughty
challenge, to meet him in the ring at Bodmin-town, on
the first day of August, or else to return my
champion's belt to them by the messenger.
It is no use to deny but that I was greatly dashed and
scared at first. For my part, I was only, when
measured without clothes on, sixty inches round the
breast, and round the calf scarce twenty-one, only two
feet across the shoulders, and in height not six and
three-quarters. However, my mother would never believe
that this man could beat me; and Lorna being of the
same mind, I resolved to go and try him, as they would
pay all expenses and a hundred pounds, if I conquered
him; so confident were those Cornishmen.
Now this story is too well known for me to go through
it again and again. Every child in Devonshire knows,
and his grandson will know, the song which some clever
man made of it, after I had treated him to water, and
to lemon, and a little sugar, and a drop of eau-de-vie.
Enough that I had found the giant quite as big as they
had described him, and enough to terrify any one. But
trusting in my practice and study of the art, I
resolved to try a back with him; and when my arms were
round him once, the giant was but a farthingale put
into the vice of a blacksmith. The man had no bones;
his frame sank in, and I was afraid of crushing him.
He lay on his back, and smiled at me; and I begged his
Now this affair made a noise at the time, and redounded
so much to my credit, that I was deeply grieved at it,
because deserving none. For I do like a good strife
and struggle; and the doubt makes the joy of victory;
whereas in this case, I might as well have been sent
for a match with a hay-mow. However, I got my hundred
pounds, and made up my mind to spend every farthing in
presents for mother and Lorna.
For Annie was married by this time, and long before I
went away; as need scarcely be said, perhaps; if any
one follows the weeks and the months. The wedding was
quiet enough, except for everybody's good wishes; and I
desire not to dwell upon it, because it grieved me in
But now that I had tried to hope the very best for dear
Annie, a deeper blow than could have come, even through
her, awaited me. For after that visit to Cornwall,
and with my prize-money about me, I came on foot from
Okehampton to Oare, so as to save a little sum towards
my time of marrying. For Lorna's fortune I would not
have; small or great I would not have it; only if there
were no denying we would devote the whole of it to
charitable uses, as Master Peter Blundell had done; and
perhaps the future ages would endeavour to be grateful.
Lorna and I had settled this question at least twice a
day, on the average; and each time with more
Now coming into the kitchen with all my cash in my
breeches pocket (golden guineas, with an elephant on
them, for the stamp of the Guinea Company), I found
dear mother most heartily glad to see me safe and sound
again--for she had dreaded that giant, and dreamed of
him--and she never asked me about the money. Lizzie
also was softer, and more gracious than usual;
especially when she saw me pour guineas, like
peppercorns, into the pudding-basin. But by the way
they hung about, I knew that something was gone wrong.
'Where is Lorna?' I asked at length, after trying not
to ask it; 'I want her to come, and see my money. She
never saw so much before.'
'Alas!' said mother with a heavy sigh; 'she will see a
great deal more, I fear; and a deal more than is good
for her. Whether you ever see her again will depend
upon her nature, John.'
'What do you mean, mother? Have you quarrelled? Why
does not Lorna come to me? Am I never to know?'
'Now, John, be not so impatient,' my mother replied,
quite calmly, for in truth she was jealous of Lorna,
'you could wait now, very well, John, if it were till
this day week, for the coming of your mother, John.
And yet your mother is your best friend. Who can ever
fill her place?'
Thinking of her future absence, mother turned away and
cried; and the box-iron singed the blanket.
'Now,' said I, being wild by this time; 'Lizzie, you
have a little sense; will you tell me where is Lorna?'
'The Lady Lorna Dugal,' said Lizzie, screwing up her
lips as if the title were too grand, 'is gone to
London, brother John; and not likely to come back
again. We must try to get on without her.'
'You little--[something]' I cried, which I dare not
write down here, as all you are too good for such
language; but Lizzie's lip provoked me so--'my Lorna
gone, my Lorna gone! And without good-bye to me even!
It is your spite has sickened her.'
'You are quite mistaken there,' she replied; 'how can
folk of low degree have either spite or liking towards
the people so far above them? The Lady Lorna Dugal is
gone, because she could not help herself; and she wept
enough to break ten hearts--if hearts are ever broken,
'Darling Lizzie, how good you are!' I cried, without
noticing her sneer; 'tell me all about it, dear; tell
me every word she said.'
'That will not take long,' said Lizzie, quite as
unmoved by soft coaxing as by urgent cursing; 'the lady
spoke very little to any one, except indeed to mother,
and to Gwenny Carfax; and Gwenny is gone with her, so
that the benefit of that is lost. But she left a
letter for "poor John," as in charity she called him.
How grand she looked, to be sure, with the fine clothes
on that were come for her!'
'Where is the letter, you utter vixen! Oh, may you have
'Who will thresh it out of you, and starve it, and
swear it out of you!' was the meaning of my
imprecation: but Lizzie, not dreaming as yet of such
things, could not understand me, and was rather
thankful; therefore she answered quietly,--
'The letter is in the little cupboard, near the head of
Lady Lorna's bed, where she used to keep the diamond
necklace, which we contrived to get stolen.'
Without another word I rushed (so that every board in
the house shook) up to my lost Lorna's room, and tore
the little wall-niche open and espied my treasure. It
was as simple, and as homely, and loving, as even I
could wish. Part of it ran as follows,--the other
parts it behoves me not to open out to strangers:--'My
own love, and sometime lord,--Take it not amiss of me,
that even without farewell, I go; for I cannot persuade
the men to wait, your return being doubtful. My
great-uncle, some grand lord, is awaiting me at
Dunster, having fear of venturing too near this Exmoor
country. I, who have been so lawless always, and the
child of outlaws, am now to atone for this, it seems,
by living in a court of law, and under special
surveillance (as they call it, I believe) of His
Majesty's Court of Chancery. My uncle is appointed my
guardian and master; and I must live beneath his care,
until I am twenty-one years old. To me this appears a
dreadful thing, and very unjust, and cruel; for why
should I lose my freedom, through heritage of land and
gold? I offered to abandon all if they would only let
me go; I went down on my knees to them, and said I
wanted titles not, neither land, nor money; only to
stay where I was, where first I had known happiness.
But they only laughed and called me "child," and said I
must talk of that to the King's High Chancellor. Their
orders they had, and must obey them; and Master
Stickles was ordered too, to help as the King's
Commissioner. And then, although it pierced my heart
not to say one "goodbye, John," I was glad upon the
whole that you were not here to dispute it. For I am
almost certain that you would not, without force to
yourself, have let your Lorna go to people who never,
never can care for her.'
Here my darling had wept again, by the tokens on the
paper; and then there followed some sweet words, too
sweet for me to chatter them. But she finished with
these noble lines, which (being common to all humanity,
in a case of steadfast love) I do no harm, but rather
help all true love by repeating. 'Of one thing rest
you well assured--and I do hope that it may prove of
service to your rest, love, else would my own be
broken--no difference of rank, or fortune, or of life
itself, shall ever make me swerve from truth to you.
We have passed through many troubles, dangers, and
dispartments, but never yet was doubt between us;
neither ever shall be. Each has trusted well the
other; and still each must do so. Though they tell you
I am false, though your own mind harbours it, from the
sense of things around, and your own undervaluing, yet
take counsel of your heart, and cast such thoughts away
from you; being unworthy of itself they must he
unworthy also of the one who dwells there; and that one
is, and ever shall be, your own Lorna Dugal.'
Some people cannot understand that tears should come
from pleasure; but whether from pleasure or from sorrow
(mixed as they are in the twisted strings of a man's
heart, or a woman's), great tears fell from my stupid
eyes, even on the blots of Lorna's.
'No doubt it is all over,' my mind said to me bitterly;
'trust me, all shall yet be right,' my heart replied
ANNIE LUCKIER THAN JOHN
Some people may look down upon us for our slavish ways
(as they may choose to call them), but in our part of
the country, we do love to mention title, and to roll
it on our tongues, with a conscience and a comfort.
Even if a man knows not, through fault of education,
who the Duke of this is, or the Earl of that, it will
never do for him to say so, lest the room look down on
him. Therefore he must nod his head, and say, 'Ah, to
he sure! I know him as well as ever I know my own good
woman's brother. He married Lord Flipflap's second
daughter, and a precious life she led him.' Whereupon
the room looks up at him. But I, being quite unable to
carry all this in my head, as I ought, was speedily put
down by people of a noble tendency, apt at Lords, and
pat with Dukes, and knowing more about the King than
His Majesty would have requested. Therefore, I fell
back in thought, not daring in words to do so, upon the
titles of our horses. And all these horses deserved
their names, not having merely inherited, but by their
own doing earned them. Smiler, for instance, had been
so called, not so much from a habit of smiling, as from
his general geniality, white nose, and white ankle.
This worthy horse was now in years, but hale and gay as
ever; and when you let him out of the stable, he could
neigh and whinny, and make men and horses know it. On
the other hand, Kickums was a horse of morose and surly
order; harbouring up revenge, and leading a rider to
false confidence. Very smoothly he would go, and as
gentle as a turtle-dove; until his rider fully
believed that a pack-thread was enough for him, and a
pat of approval upon his neck the aim and crown of his
worthy life. Then suddenly up went his hind feet to
heaven, and the rider for the most part flew over his
nose; whereupon good Kickums would take advantage of
his favourable position to come and bite a piece out of
his back. Now in my present state of mind, being
understood of nobody, having none to bear me company,
neither wishing to have any, an indefinite kind of
attraction drew me into Kickum's society. A bond of
mutual sympathy was soon established between us; I
would ride no other horse, neither Kickums be ridden by
any other man. And this good horse became as jealous
about me as a dog might be; and would lash out, or run
teeth foremost, at any one who came near him when I was
on his back.
This season, the reaping of the corn, which had been
but a year ago so pleasant and so lightsome, was become
a heavy labour, and a thing for grumbling rather than
for gladness. However, for the sake of all, it must be
attended to, and with as fair a show of spirit and
alacrity as might be. For otherwise the rest would
drag, and drop their hands and idle, being quicker to
take infection of dullness than of diligence. And the
harvest was a heavy one, even heavier than the year
before, although of poorer quality. Therefore was I
forced to work as hard as any horse could during all
the daylight hours, and defer till night the brooding
upon my misfortune. But the darkness always found me
stiff with work, and weary, and less able to think than
to dream, may be, of Lorna. And now the house was so
dull and lonesome, wanting Annie's pretty presence, and
the light of Lorna's eyes, that a man had no temptation
after supper-time even to sit and smoke a pipe.
For Lizzie, though so learned, and pleasant when it
suited her, never had taken very kindly to my love for
Lorna, and being of a proud and slightly upstart
nature, could not bear to be eclipsed in bearing,
looks, and breeding, and even in clothes, by the
stranger. For one thing I will say of the Doones, that
whether by purchase or plunder, they had always dressed
my darling well, with her own sweet taste to help them.
And though Lizzie's natural hate of the maid (as a
Doone and burdened with father's death) should have
been changed to remorse when she learned of Lorna's
real parentage, it was only altered to sullenness, and
discontent with herself, for frequent rudeness to an
innocent person, and one of such high descent.
Moreover, the child had imbibed strange ideas as to our
aristocracy, partly perhaps from her own way of
thinking, and partly from reading of history. For
while, from one point of view she looked up at them
very demurely, as commissioned by God for the country's
good; from another sight she disliked them, as ready to
sacrifice their best and follow their worst members.
Yet why should this wench dare to judge upon a matter
so far beyond her, and form opinions which she knew
better than declare before mother? But with me she had
no such scruple, for I had no authority over her; and
my intellect she looked down upon, because I praised
her own so. Thus she made herself very unpleasant to
me; by little jags and jerks of sneering, sped as
though unwittingly; which I (who now considered myself
allied to the aristocracy, and perhaps took airs on
that account) had not wit enough to parry, yet had
wound enough to feel.
Now any one who does not know exactly how mothers feel
and think, would have expected my mother (than whom
could be no better one) to pet me, and make much of me,
under my sad trouble; to hang with anxiety on my looks,
and shed her tears with mine (if any), and season every
dish of meat put by for her John's return. And if the
whole truth must be told, I did expect that sort of
thing, and thought what a plague it would be to me; yet
not getting it, was vexed, as if by some new injury.
For mother was a special creature (as I suppose we all
are), being the warmest of the warm, when fired at the
proper corner; and yet, if taken at the wrong point,
you would say she was incombustible.
Hence it came to pass that I had no one even to speak
to, about Lorna and my grievances; for Captain Stickles
was now gone southward; and John Fry. of course, was
too low for it, although a married man, and well under
his wife's management. But finding myself unable at
last to bear this any longer, upon the first day when
all the wheat was cut, and the stooks set up in every
field, yet none quite fit for carrying, I saddled good
Kickums at five in the morning, and without a word to
mother (for a little anxiety might do her good) off I
set for Molland parish, to have the counsel and the
comfort of my darling Annie.
The horse took me over the ground so fast (there being
few better to go when he liked), that by nine o'clock
Annie was in my arms, and blushing to the colour of
Winnie's cheeks, with sudden delight and young
'You precious little soul!' I cried: 'how does Tom
behave to you?'
'Hush!' said Annie: 'how dare you ask? He is the
kindest, and the best, and the noblest of all men,
John; not even setting yourself aside. Now look not
jealous, John: so it is. We all have special gifts,
you know. You are as good as you can be, John; but my
husband's special gift is nobility of character.' Here
she looked at me, as one who has discovered something
'I am devilish glad to hear it,' said I, being touched
at going down so: 'keep him to that mark, my dear; and
cork the whisky bottle.'
'Yes, darling John,' she answered quickly, not desiring
to open that subject, and being too sweet to resent it:
'and how is lovely Lorna? What an age it is since I
have seen you! I suppose we must thank her for that.'
'You may thank her for seeing me now,' said I; 'or
rather,'--seeing how hurt she looked,--'you may thank
my knowledge of your kindness, and my desire to speak
of her to a soft-hearted dear little soul like you. I
think all the women are gone mad. Even mother treats
me shamefully. And as for Lizzie--' Here I stopped,
knowing no words strong enough, without shocking Annie.
'Do you mean to say that Lorna is gone?' asked Annie,
in great amazement; yet leaping at the truth, as women
do, with nothing at all to leap from.
'Gone. And I never shall see her again. It serves me
right for aspiring so.'
Being grieved at my manner, she led me in where none
could interrupt us; and in spite of all my dejection, I
could not help noticing how very pretty and even
elegant all things were around. For we upon Exmoor
have little taste; all we care for is warm comfort, and
plenty to eat and to give away, and a hearty smack in
everything. But Squire Faggus had seen the world, and
kept company with great people; and the taste he had
first displayed in the shoeing of farmers' horses
(which led almost to his ruin, by bringing him into
jealousy, and flattery, and dashing ways) had now been
cultivated in London, and by moonlight, so that none
could help admiring it.
'Well!' I cried, for the moment dropping care and woe
in astonishment: 'we have nothing like this at Plover's
Barrows; nor even Uncle Reuben. I do hope it is
'Would I sit in a chair that was not my own?' asked
Annie, turning crimson, and dropping defiantly, and
with a whisk of her dress which I never had seen
before, into the very grandest one: 'would I lie on a
couch, brother John, do you think, unless good money
was paid for it? Because other people are clever,
John, you need not grudge them their earnings.'
'A couch!' I replied: 'why what can you want with a
couch in the day-time, Annie? A couch is a small bed,
set up in a room without space for a good four-poster.
What can you want with a couch downstairs? I never
heard of such nonsense. And you ought to be in the
'I won't cry, brother John, I won't; because you want
to make me cry'--and all the time she was crying--'you
always were so nasty, John, sometimes. Ah, you have no
nobility of character, like my husband. And I have not
seen you for two months, John; and now you come to
'You little darling,' I said, for Annie's tears always
conquered me; 'if all the rest ill-use me, I will not
quarrel with you, dear. You have always been true to
me; and I can forgive your vanity. Your things are
very pretty, dear; and you may couch ten times a day,
without my interference. No doubt your husband has
paid for all this, with the ponies he stole from
Exmoor. Nobility of character is a thing beyond my
understanding; but when my sister loves a man, and he
does well and flourishes, who am I to find fault with
him? Mother ought to see these things: they would turn
her head almost: look at the pimples on the chairs!'
'They are nothing,' Annie answered, after kissing me
for my kindness: 'they are only put in for the time
indeed; and we are to have much better, with gold all
round the bindings, and double plush at the corners; so
soon as ever the King repays the debt he owes to my
I thought to myself that our present King had been most
unlucky in one thing--debts all over the kingdom. Not
a man who had struck a blow for the King, or for his
poor father, or even said a good word for him, in the
time of his adversity, but expected at least a
baronetcy, and a grant of estates to support it. Many
have called King Charles ungrateful: and he may have
been so. But some indulgence is due to a man, with
entries few on the credit side, and a terrible column
'Have no fear for the chair,' I said, for it creaked
under me very fearfully, having legs not so large as my
finger; 'if the chair breaks, Annie, your fear should
be, lest the tortoise-shell run into me. Why, it is
striped like a viper's loins! I saw some hundreds in
London; and very cheap they are. They are made to be
sold to the country people, such as you and me, dear;
and carefully kept they will last for almost half a
year. Now will you come back from your furniture, and
listen to my story?'
Annie was a hearty dear, and she knew that half my talk
was joke, to make light of my worrying. Therefore she
took it in good part, as I well knew that she would do;
and she led me to a good honest chair; and she sat in
my lap and kissed me.
'All this is not like you, John. All this is not one
bit like you: and your cheeks are not as they ought to
be. I shall have to come home again, if the women
worry my brother so. We always held together, John;
and we always will, you know.'
'You dear,' I cried, 'there is nobody who understands
me as you do. Lorna makes too much of me, and the rest
they make too little.'
'Not mother; oh, not mother, John!'
'No, mother makes too much, no doubt; but wants it all
for herself alone; and reckons it as a part of her.
She makes me more wroth than any one: as if not only my
life, but all my head and heart must seek from hers,
and have no other thought or care.'
Being sped of my grumbling thus, and eased into better
temper, I told Annie all the strange history about
Lorna and her departure, and the small chance that now
remained to me of ever seeing my love again. To this
Annie would not hearken twice, but judging women by her
faithful self, was quite vexed with me for speaking so.
And then, to my surprise and sorrow, she would deliver
no opinion as to what I ought to do until she had
consulted darling Tom.
Dear Tom knew much of the world, no doubt, especially
the dark side of it. But to me it scarcely seemed
becoming that my course of action with regard to the
Lady Lorna Dugal should be referred to Tom Faggus, and
depend upon his decision. However, I would not grieve
Annie again by making light of her husband; and so when
he came in to dinner, the matter was laid before him.
Now this man never confessed himself surprised, under
any circumstances; his knowledge of life being so
profound, and his charity universal. And in the
present case he vowed that he had suspected it all
along, and could have thrown light upon Lorna's
history, if we had seen fit to apply to him. Upon
further inquiry I found that this light was a very dim
one, flowing only from the fact that he had stopped her
mother's coach, at the village of Bolham, on the
Bampton Road, the day before I saw them. Finding only
women therein, and these in a sad condition, Tom with
his usual chivalry (as he had no scent of the necklace)
allowed them to pass; with nothing more than a pleasant
exchange of courtesies, and a testimonial forced upon
him, in the shape of a bottle of Burgundy wine. This
the poor countess handed him; and he twisted the cork
out with his teeth, and drank her health with his hat
'A lady she was, and a true one; and I am a pretty good
judge,' said Tom: 'ah, I do like a high lady!'
Our Annie looked rather queer at this, having no
pretensions to be one: but she conquered herself, and
said, 'Yes, Tom; and many of them liked you.'
With this, Tom went on the brag at once, being but a
shallow fellow, and not of settled principles, though
steadier than he used to be; until I felt myself almost
bound to fetch him back a little; for of all things I
do hate brag the most, as any reader of this tale must
by this time know. Therefore I said to Squire Faggus,
'Come back from your highway days. You have married
the daughter of an honest man; and such talk is not fit
for her. If you were right in robbing people, I am
right in robbing you. I could bind you to your own
mantelpiece, as you know thoroughly well, Tom; and
drive away with your own horses, and all your goods
behind them, but for the sense of honesty. And should
I not do as fine a thing as any you did on the highway?
If everything is of public right, how does this chair
belong to you? Clever as you are, Tom Faggus, you are
nothing but a fool to mix your felony with your
farmership. Drop the one, or drop the other; you
cannot maintain them both.'
As I finished very sternly a speech which had exhausted
me more than ten rounds of wrestling--but I was carried
away by the truth, as sometimes happens to all of
us--Tom had not a word to say; albeit his mind was so
much more nimble and rapid than ever mine was. He
leaned against the mantelpiece (a newly-invented affair
in his house) as if I had corded him to it, even as I
spoke of doing. And he laid one hand on his breast in
a way which made Annie creep softly to him, and look at
me not like a sister.
'You have done me good, John,' he said at last, and the
hand he gave me was trembling: 'there is no other man
on God's earth would have dared to speak to me as you
have done. From no other would I have taken it.
Nevertheless every word is true; and I shall dwell on
it when you are gone. If you never did good in your
life before, John, my brother, you have done it now.'
He turned away, in bitter pain, that none might see his
trouble; and Annie, going along with him, looked as if
I had killed our mother. For my part, I was so upset,
for fear of having gone too far, that without a word to
either of them, but a message on the title-page of King
James his Prayer-book, I saddled Kickums, and was off,
and glad of the moorland air again.
THEREFORE HE SEEKS COMFORT
It was for poor Annie's sake that I had spoken my mind
to her husband so freely, and even harshly. For we all
knew she would break her heart, if Tom took to evil
ways again. And the right mode of preventing this was,
not to coax, and flatter, and make a hero of him (which
he did for himself, quite sufficiently), but to set
before him the folly of the thing, and the ruin to his
own interests. They would both be vexed with me, of
course, for having left them so hastily, and especially
just before dinner-time; but that would soon wear off;
and most likely they would come to see mother, and tell
her that I was hard to manage, and they could feel for
her about it.
Now with a certain yearning, I know not what, for
softness, and for one who could understand me--for
simple as a child though being, I found few to do that
last, at any rate in my love-time--I relied upon
Kickum's strength to take me round by Dulverton. It
would make the journey some eight miles longer, but
what was that to a brisk young horse, even with my
weight upon him?
And having left Squire Faggus and Annie much sooner
than had been intended, I had plenty of time before me,
and too much, ere a prospect of dinner. Therefore I
struck to the right, across the hills, for Dulverton.
Pretty Ruth was in the main street of the town, with a
basket in her hand, going home from the market.
'Why, Cousin Ruth, you are grown, I exclaimed; 'I do
believe you are, Ruth. And you were almost too tall,
At this the little thing was so pleased, that she
smiled through her blushes beautifully, and must needs
come to shake hands with me; though I signed to her not
to do it, because of my horse's temper. But scarcely
was her hand in mine, when Kickums turned like an eel
upon her, and caught her by the left arm with his
teeth, so that she screamed with agony. I saw the
white of his vicious eye, and struck him there with all
my force, with my left hand over her right arm, and he
never used that eye again; none the less he kept his
hold on her. Then I smote him again on the jaw, and
caught the little maid up by her right hand, and laid
her on the saddle in front of me; while the horse being
giddy and staggered with blows, and foiled of his
spite, ran backward. Ruth's wits were gone; and she
lay before me, in such a helpless and senseless way
that I could have killed vile Kickums. I struck the
spurs into him past the rowels, and away he went at
full gallop; while I had enough to do to hold on, with
the little girl lying in front of me. But I called to
the men who were flocking around, to send up a surgeon,
as quick as could be, to Master Reuben Huckaback's.
The moment I brought my right arm to bear, the vicious
horse had no chance with me; and if ever a horse was
well paid for spite, Kickums had his change that day.
The bridle would almost have held a whale and I drew on
it so that his lower jaw was well-nigh broken from him;
while with both spurs I tore his flanks, and he learned
a little lesson. There are times when a man is more
vicious than any horse may vie with. Therefore by the
time we had reached Uncle Reuben's house at the top of
the hill, the bad horse was only too happy to stop;
every string of his body was trembling, and his head
hanging down with impotence. I leaped from his back at
once, and carried the maiden into her own sweet room.
Now Cousin Ruth was recovering softly from her fright
and faintness; and the volley of the wind from
galloping so had made her little ears quite pink, and
shaken her locks all round her. But any one who might
wish to see a comely sight and a moving one, need only
have looked at Ruth Huckaback, when she learned (and
imagined yet more than it was) the manner of her little
ride with me. Her hair was of a hazel-brown, and full
of waving readiness; and with no concealment of the
trick, she spread it over her eyes and face. Being so
delighted with her, and so glad to see her safe, I
kissed her through the thick of it, as a cousin has a
right to do; yea, and ought to do, with gravity.
'Darling,' I said; 'he has bitten you dreadfully: show
me your poor arm, dear.'
She pulled up her sleeve in the simplest manner, rather
to look at it herself, than to show me where the wound
was. Her sleeve was of dark blue Taunton staple; and
her white arm shone, coming out of it, as round and
plump and velvety, as a stalk of asparagus, newly
fetched out of the ground. But above the curved soft
elbow, where no room was for one cross word (according
to our proverb),* three sad gashes, edged with crimson,
spoiled the flow of the pearly flesh. My presence of
mind was lost altogether; and I raised the poor sore
arm to my lips, both to stop the bleeding and to take
the venom out, having heard how wise it was, and
thinking of my mother. But Ruth, to my great
amazement, drew away from me in bitter haste, as if I
had been inserting instead of extracting poison. For
the bite of a horse is most venomous; especially when
he sheds his teeth; and far more to be feared than the
bite of a dog, or even of a cat. And in my haste I had
forgotten that Ruth might not know a word about this,
and might doubt about my meaning, and the warmth of my
osculation. But knowing her danger, I durst not heed
her childishness, or her feelings.
* A maid with an elbow sharp, or knee,
Hath cross words two, out of every three.
'Don't be a fool, Cousin Ruth,' I said, catching her so
that she could not move; 'the poison is soaking into
you. Do you think that I do it for pleasure?'
The spread of shame on her face was such, when she saw
her own misunderstanding, that I was ashamed to look at
her; and occupied myself with drawing all the risk of
glanders forth from the white limb, hanging helpless
now, and left entirely to my will. Before I was quite
sure of having wholly exhausted suction, and when I had
made the holes in her arm look like the gills of a
lamprey, in came the doctor, partly drunk, and in haste
to get through his business.
'Ha, ha! I see,' he cried; 'bite of a horse, they tell
me. Very poisonous; must be burned away. Sally, the
iron in the fire. If you have a fire, this weather.'
'Crave your pardon, good sir,' I said; for poor little
Ruth was fainting again at his savage orders: 'but my
cousin's arm shall not be burned; it is a great deal
too pretty, and I have sucked all the poison out.
Look, sir, how clean and fresh it is.'
'Bless my heart! And so it is! No need at all for
cauterising. The epidermis will close over, and the
cutis and the pellis. John Ridd, you ought to have
studied medicine, with your healing powers. Half my
virtue lies in touch. A clean and wholesome body, sir;
I have taught you the Latin grammar. I leave you in
excellent hands, my dear, and they wait for me at
shovel-board. Bread and water poultice cold, to be
renewed, tribus horis. John Ridd, I was at school with
you, and you beat me very lamentably, when I tried to
fight with you. You remember me not? It is likely
enough: I am forced to take strong waters, John, from
infirmity of the liver. Attend to my directions; and I
will call again in the morning.'
And in that melancholy plight, caring nothing for
business, went one of the cleverest fellows ever known
at Tiverton. He could write Latin verses a great deal
faster than I could ever write English prose, and
nothing seemed too great for him. We thought that he
would go to Oxford and astonish every one, and write in
the style of Buchanan; but he fell all abroad very
lamentably; and now, when I met him again, was come
down to push-pin and shovel-board, with a wager of
When Master Huckaback came home, he looked at me very
sulkily; not only because of my refusal to become a
slave to the gold-digging, but also because he regarded
me as the cause of a savage broil between Simon Carfax
and the men who had cheated him as to his Gwenny.
However, when Uncle Ben saw Ruth, and knew what had
befallen her, and she with tears in her eyes declared
that she owed her life to Cousin Ridd, the old man
became very gracious to me; for if he loved any one on
earth, it was his little granddaughter.
I could not stay very long, because, my horse being
quite unfit to travel from the injuries which his
violence and vice had brought upon him, there was
nothing for me but to go on foot, as none of Uncle
Ben's horses could take me to Plover's Barrows, without
downright cruelty: and though there would be a
harvest-moon, Ruth agreed with me that I must not keep
my mother waiting, with no idea where I might be, until
a late hour of the night. I told Ruth all about our
Annie, and her noble furniture; and the little maid was
very lively (although her wounds were paining her so,
that half her laughter came 'on the wrong side of her
mouth,' as we rather coarsely express it); especially
she laughed about Annie's new-fangled closet for